Four Agreements - 3. Don't Make Assumptions
Updated: Apr 28, 2020
Don’t Make Assumptions.
Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness & drama. With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.
I take this to be reflected in another sort of statement - ‘stories’ instead of ‘assumptions’. Don't make up stories. Same ocean, different boat. The mind can be a wicked, wicked place to live. You’d think it would be on my side, being a part of me and all. But holy hell does it like to make up the most ridiculous shit sometimes. No more is this apparent than in relationships. The stakes are high, and you're typically at your most vulnerable anyway. Instead of giving your partner the benefit of the doubt, or even better, not taking things personally (an ode to the Second Agreement), we tend to make up the worst case scenarios in our minds that are more often than not incredibly distant from what's really even going on.
Here’s a very simple example - You’ve just starting dating a new partner. You've hung out a few times, and so far he has chosen the activities for these dates. Tonight, it’s your turn. The energy floating around your body is palpable. You feel as though lighting is striking the middle of your heart, and expelling out through your extremities. Someone hasn’t made you feel this way in a long while, and it’s an incredibly special feeling to have. You place a lot of energy & time into choosing the activity for the evening, based upon observances you’ve noticed and comments he’s made. You text mid-morning eager to share your thoughts with him. Sent! And you continue about your morning. An hour later you check to see if he’s cool with the plans. No text. Nothing to really worry yourself with, he’s probably got a busy morning (story block #1). Another hour passes and no reply. Weird, up to this point he’s been pretty consistent with his responses. He’s probably set up back to back morning meetings (story block #2). Going into hours three & four, your mind is really starting with the good ones - Did I say something weird in my text? Did he seem different when we talked on the phone last night? Should I send a follow up text? (story block #3). When five + hours pass, that’s when the stories really ramp up - Is he sick? Did his dog die? Did he get into an accident? Did he fall off a cliff and now he’s laying at the bottom of that cliff with two broken legs and no one knows where he is b/c he didn’t text! (story block #4). Not so many lightning bolts making their way through you anymore. Your phone rings around 5pm, it’s him. The vibe you’re picking up on the other end of the line isn’t that of him being sick, or his dog dying or having two broken legs. He’s in fact pumped. He just signed a new client this morning and has been working with him all day implementing new practices. He saw your text mi-way through his day, and that made him even more excited. All the time expelled thinking of these completely falsely made up stories, and for what? He just didn’t want to break away from the momentum he was creating with this client. The mind just loooooooooooves to kick into overdrive, especially when the stakes are high. And my experience of creating hundreds if not thousands of stories over the years? They more often than not tend to lean towards the negative side, and from that, always seem to fall into the 'worst case scenario' category, ugh.
NOTE: The above example can also be filed under ‘expectations in a relationship’ - do you or your partner need a specific time frame to respond to each other? Another tough lesson I’ve learnt is that I’m not the only person on the planet. The world does not revolved around me. I don’t need to be responded to right away. My partner’s life does not revolve around mine, nor mine to theirs. They are interdependent of me, as I am to them. Do you know how much of a mind fuck that is to someone who’s been co-depedant in relationships most of her adult life?? I'll save that story is for another time.
This can also be in the same vessel as everyone has their own experience in relation to another person. You hear and interpret one thing, your friend/partner/mother/father/therapist hears and interprets another. There is no right, no wrong. Just two sides. Understanding, holding space and not overreacting towards the other person is key. Oh and the big 'C' - COMMUNICATION. Ask them what they mean and how they are feeling, don’t assume to know. On that note, don't make the assumption that your partner/friend/family member knows what you want either. We are all uniquely individual, and are constantly evolving (most of us anyway). What you wanted at the beginning of the relationship may have shifted. And that's OK. You have every right to do this, but communicating this is paramount. Most of the errors in my past relationships have stemmed from this very area - miscommunication, or no communication at all. Which ties into the First Agreement of speaking your truth. Holding in my words just leads to more insecurities. Setting boundaries, having the courage to speak my truth and expressing my feelings will all lead to incredibly respectful and nurturing relationships in all aspect of life.
So how does one stop telling themselves stories relating to things they cannot control in their lives? Well, I suppose that's the first step - you can't control everything. Especially when it comes to other human beings. Making up stories in your mind to help you make sense of a persons or situation will not solve or resolve anything. In fact, in my experience, it leads to much more pain & suffering, and the ever so shitty "I" word again - INSECURITY. Now, treating yourself with kindness & compassion must follow suit as there are many reasons why one makes up stories. Given that I am now hyper-aware of the stories I tell myself, here are the few step that I follow:
1. Why am I making up this story?
2. Do I know this story to be true?
3. Do I feel safe in communicating this story and expressing my feelings?
4. Can I sit with this and be OK that I don't know the answers, nor that I don't have control?
I can tell you with much certainty that lately, much suffering on my end has been displaced from checking in with friends and communicating my thoughts before allowing the stories in my head to take over. This has taken A LOT of awareness, a lot of mind work, a lot of practice. I used to make up stories almost daily, how brutally exhausting. Check in with yourself, where can you pull back from creating stories and just allow things to unfold as they will.